The Driverless Commute: GM’s driverless exemption petition advances, but key questions for industry remains; a driver’s test for driverless cars; and robo-race car to edge test

1. NHTSA advances GM’s FMVSS exemption bid. But we still don’t have answers on liability.

Car from GM Cruise LLC, a driverless  car company that tests and develops autonomous car technology.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is airing for public comment two petitions to deploy on public roads vehicles that lack conventional controls like a steering wheel or pedals.

The move came some fourteen months after General Motors first asked federal regulators for a temporary exemption from Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. The automaker asked the agency in January 2018 for 16 human-driver-based exemptions from FMVSS with the hope it could deploy a fleet of robocabs later this year. (You can read their petition here.)

If approved, federal regulators would be endorsing the bold proposition that autonomous vehicles (these ones, at least) can deliver a standard of safety equivalent to what is already required of existing cars, but the long wait is evidence that catching the feds’ green light is neither easy nor assured.

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The Driverless Commute in Law360: What’s Ahead For Autonomous Vehicle Test Driver Regs

Autonomous vehicles are layered with complex, still-emerging technology. As a result, what makes driverless cars tick is a mystery for virtually the entire public. That dynamic itself shouldn’t be all that’s concerning: We routinely interact with technology of which we have little understanding. But when it comes to driving, a task humans have controlled for generations, the thought of surrendering the wheel to a code-based operating system is uniquely unsettling.

Autonomous Vehicles - Car Interior

Empirically that should not be the case. Conservative estimates show that 94 percent of vehicle accidents are caused by human error. Autonomous vehicles, operating at peak performance and constantly communicating not only with traffic lights and stop signs but also with other vehicles and pedestrians, should significantly reduce, or even eliminate, car accidents, saving hundreds of thousands of lives and billions of dollars in health care and repair costs.

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The Driverless Commute: Trump doesn’t like AVs. He’s not alone. So what does it mean for his administration?

1. Rage against the machine(s)

Ford Argo AI self-driving test car zooming through Washington D.C.

Donald Trump doesn’t use a computer. He doesn’t send or receive text messages or emails, preferring instead to annotate print-outs and have aides send scanned copies. He doesn’t carry a cell phone, but he sometimes consumes media on a tablet, which his handlers know as “the flat one.”

Sure, Trump may be living an analog life, but his administration isn’t.

Indeed, autonomous vehicles—at once the world’s most audacious and least-trusted form of artificial intelligence—have in Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao one of the technology’s most committed cheerleaders.

Just last week, Chao, whose practiced light-touch has allowed the technology to flourish, announced the creation of a new commission within DOT tasked with promoting emerging transportation tech like self-driving cars.

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Smart Transportation and Infrastructure Challenges

Ed. note: This article was originally published in The Journal of Robotics, Artificial Intelligence & Law, Vo. 2, No. 3.

Public policy and technology have never been so interwoven. The authors of this article discuss smart transportation and infrastructure challenges and note that it is the responsibility of lawmakers to thoughtfully approach mobility with an eye to the not-so-distant autonomous future.

When it comes to transportation infrastructure in our country’s largest cities, we all agree that our cash strapped transit grids are bad, and traffic is worse. In any major city, one need only cast a gaze skyward to the swoop of cranes fashioning a towering, new skyline of glimmering glass and steel to understand that the sea of red that drowns our highways each rush hour is emblematic of the worsening road congestion and growing pains at hand.

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The Driverless Commute, presented by Dentons: How programmer bias will be reflected in AI platforms; a case for public investment in AV access; and Waymo, GM & Ford top new AV leaderboard

1. When an engineer’s implicit bias becomes a computer’s

Autonomous Vehicle (AV) LIDAR sensor

Can the machine learning algorithms that underpin the operation of autonomous vehicles perpetuate—or worsen, even—social, structural biases against people of color?

Maybe, according to a new paper (PDF) from the Georgia Institute of Technology, where researchers tested the accuracy of object detection systems (not unlike those used in driverless cars) in positively identifying pedestrians of varying skin colors.

Researchers paid human test subjects to review a collection of 3,500 images of people of varying skin tones and to mark each photograph with “LS” or “DS” to designate light or dark skin of the subject.

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5 Ways Autonomous Vehicles Will Change Law That You Might Not Expect

Eric Tanenblatt, the global chairman of public policy and regulation at Dentons, discusses how self-driving cars may lead to change in zoning laws, public finance, and more.

Ed. note: This article was originally published on Legaltech News and was authored by Legaltech editor-in-chief Zach Warren.

A Waymo-customized Chrysler Pacifica hybrid, used for Google’s self-driving vehicle program
A Waymo-customized Chrysler Pacifica hybrid, used for Google’s self-driving vehicle program, drives down 8th Street in San Francisco. (Photo: Jason Doiy/ALM)

Autonomous vehicles aren’t exactly a futuristic technology any longer. From San Francisco to Phoenix to Pittsburgh, these self-driving cars are already hitting the road in major U.S. cities, and experts estimate that 8 million autonomous vehicles will be sold in 2025, just six years away.

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The Driverless Commute, presented by Dentons: When a race for the moon becomes a carpool: AV tie-ups signal retrenchment, sobering up

Welcome to the all new, web-only version of The Driverless Commute, which we launched in 2017 as one of the world’s first news and analysis verticals dedicated exclusively to autonomous vehicles.

We appreciate your continued readership as we evolve to better serve you, including the launch later this year of a monthly newsmaker podcast featuring self-driving policy makers, technologists and thought leaders.

1. Frenemies

German auto giants BMW and Daimler (the parent group of Mercedes Benz) said last Thursday they would pool their resources in the development of autonomous vehicles.

Partly a reflection of the difficulty engineering next-generation cars and partly a (long-overdue) admission that the industry isn’t as far along as the hype (and a few CEOS) have implied, this remarkable tie-up between once-bitter rivals comes as the industry sobers up to a spiraling bar tab.

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